Homer Optimism: The Cardinals Struggle in 2009


A second dose of homer optimism:

The Arizona Cardinals will not repeat as NFC West champions.

And they won’t even be close.

Although I’m not a huge believer in curses, the Cardinals have a lot going against them this season. They lost the Super Bowl, and the Super Bowl loser typically struggles to return to the playoffs the following season. In fact, it has become more of a trend than a curse.

Since 2001, only one team has made the playoffs after losing the Super Bowl the previous season. That team, the 2006 Seattle Seahawks, broke the streak of the curse and won a weak NFC West to make the playoffs. Some Seattle fans would argue the streak was never broken; Seattle “should’ve” won Super Bowl XL and the team who “should’ve” lost failed to make the playoffs the following season (Pittsburgh).

And what about the dreaded Madden curse? Every year since 1999, an athlete has been featured on the cover of Madden NFL. And every year, that player struggles to find success the following season.

This year, Larry Fitzgerald and Troy Polamalu were featured on the cover together.

And so far, the curse is alive. Troy Polamalu injured his knee in the season opener and will miss 3-6 weeks. Who knows how (and if) it will affect Larry Fitzgerald’s production this season.

For those of you who don’t believe in curses, there is more proof. Just look at Arizona’s statistics.

Although the preseason typically doesn’t matter, the Arizona Cardinals were dreadful. They finished the exhibition season without a win, and their starting players looked horrible in the process.

Kurt Warner, 38 years old and one hit away from a lost season, finished the preseason with a passer rating of 47.4. He completed just over half of his passes and threw three interceptions without a touchdown pass.

In four preseason contests, the Cardinals gave up an average of 331.8 yards and 25 points per game.

It is only the preseason, but the Cardinals will need to perform much better if they hope to repeat as NFC West champions.

Don’t expect their defense to improve much, however.

Despite Arizona’s dominance in the playoffs last season, the defense was ordinary at best during the regular season.

Only the Detroit Lions and St. Louis Rams gave up more points than the Cardinals in the NFC last season. If the Cardinals weren’t so explosive on offense last year, they wouldn’t have been very competitive. If their defense didn’t show up in the playoffs, they would’ve been eliminated after their first game.

A lot of analysts point out how horrible Seattle’s defense was last season, but most fail to recognize that Arizona’s was just as bad.

And Seattle addressed the defensive side of the football during the offseason, adding players like Aaron Curry and Ken Lucas and switching up the entire front four of the defensive line.

Arizona lost both coordinators from last year: Todd Haley (offensive coordinator) is now the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, and Clancy Pendergrast (defensive coordinator) was fired. They added Bryant McFadden to the secondary, but lost Eric Green from the previous season. McFadden is an improvement, and should help to improve a secondary that struggled against the pass last season (221.2 passing yards per game, fifth-worst in the NFC). But even McFadden isn’t good enough to save Arizona’s hopeless defense.

Both curses and statistics are against Arizona winning the NFC West again. And if the preseason accurately forecasts anything this year, the Cardinals are in trouble.

The Arizona Cardinals won’t win the NFC West, and will not return to the playoffs this season.